Sixteen-year-old Dee Carpenter lands on Omaha Beach in the chaos of the first landings in Normandy and is immediately confronted with the violence and terror of war. He carries a burden of responsibility unknown to his brothers-in-arms—even his best friend, Sid. There are others who carry their own burdens: Samira, an Algerian girl with the French Resistance, must save her mother from the Nazis; Canadian paratrooper James drops from a plane into a bullet-ridden night sky, asking What am I doing here?; Bill, the British tank operator who wants to make it as far as Amiens to see the rock where his father carved his name when he was there during WWI; and the medic James, who scours the beach under constant enemy fire searching for wounded soldiers, some of whom do not want his help.
Allies takes place over the course of twenty-four hours—from midnight June 6, 1944 to midnight on June 7. The story mostly follows Dee, but the others play integral roles in the mission. The diverse characters not only represent different nations and ethnicities, but differing reasons to be at war beyond ridding the world of Nazism. Gratz does not shy away from the horrors of war—whether it be the violence of the battlefield or the ugliness of racism, antisemitism, and sexism from supposed allies. Each of the characters are young, which is not only historically accurate, but also makes it easier for young readers to relate. While written for middle-grade readers, the brutal frankness makes this a suitable read for older readers as well. An extensive Author’s Note gives an overview of Operation Overlord as well as the six smaller operations portrayed in the story. Excellent!